From Telnis Skuqi – Endri Keraj
Gjirokastra – If Vjollca Koko was not a physician, she would be simply a disabled person in the town of Gjirokastra. For 17 years she works as a rheumatolog in the “Omer Nishani” hospital of Gjirokastra, she is sweet-mouthed and has not abandoned her work despite her health condition. Every day she ascends and descends some 40 steps. The elevator of the flat where she lives for five years does not work since 18 months, whereas the town where she lives does not offer any infrastructure for this category. “I bought the apartment as it had an elevator, but when I bought the wheelchair I understood it was too late “, says Koko, adding that it is difficult to make a normal life in Gjirokastra, the town does not have any infrastructure for the disabled people.
Vjollca Koko, physician and pedagogue at Gjirokastra University
Koko says that few months ago she was dragged on together with her “Skuter” wheelchair, when a vehicle crashed with her while she was going at work. “I was lucky to be alive, whereas the driver of the vehicle left. Luckily enough some of the pedestrians intervened. They gave me the first aid”, says Koko. Furthermore, the rheamotolog indicates that the reason for the accident was not the vehicle, but the unsuitable infrastructure in the town. “In Gjirokastra do not exist the red lines, neither for the bicycles nor for the wheelchairs of the disabled people, whereas the parking spaces for the disabled people are usurped every moment from the drivers of the vehicles”, says Koko. “My parking space is never free. I am obliged to pass through the vehicles to find any way out. Personally, I live near the hospital, but very often I have to travel like Magellan to arrive in my working place”, continues Koko.
The power of the local government can be shown at this point, but who listens”, she says. The lack of infrastructure is visible everywhere. Koko works as a part time pedagogue at “Eqerem Cabej” university. “The students are carrying me on their arms together with the wheelchair and bring me to the auditorium”, specifies Koko, who emphasizes she solves all her personal problems with phone calls to her endless friends in the community. “I cannot accomplish anything at the public institutions by myself, neither in municipality, police station, nor in the courts without the help of my friends”, underlines Koko. My job, tells Koko, inspires me, my patients as well. She contributes for the society, but she does not take anything back from it.
“I get very much tired and my heart breaks down when I have to ascend and descend the 40 steps in my flat. I do not have the commodity to move and I am obliged to go out of home only once per day”, says Koko, while explaining that she suffers from Multiple Sclerosis for 8 years now, an autoimmune decease that fragmentizes the myelin that is the protein coverage of the nerve fibers, the later does not allow to transmit the signals to the affected nerves.
From the state, Koko, has not benefitted anything at all, even the reimbursement of the medicines in the different stages of her disease, which are very expensive to her. “I was obliged to go to Germany to get from there a medical treatment that was still under experiment and cost 1200 Euro per month. At this point, my friends and relatives helped me, but not the state. Even though I have sent a request to them, I have never received any answer”, says Koko, adding that in Gjirokastra at least 20 people are suffering from this same disease. “They are under the same conditions, and even worse”, says Koko. Despite her efforts to be equal with the normal people, Koko says that she feels good in Gjirokastra and has never thought to leave her hometown. “My feet were tied up in Gjirokastra, but Gjirokastra keeps me on my feet. She thanks her colleagues and her patients. They keep me alive, I get satisfaction from them. They are my inspiration”, concludes Koko.
Dhimitër Mjedi, director of the State Social Service in Gjirokastra Region (SHSSH), judges that it is very concerning the lack of infrastructure for the
Dhimiter Mjedi, director of Social Service
people with disabilities in the three southern districts Gjirokastra, Permet and Tepelena. “SHSSH, being a social institution has continuously requested from the local government to fulfill the infrastructural conditions for the disabled people, but they have remained silent up to now”, says Mejdi. According to him, only three businesses in Gjirokastra region have build such an infrastructure, whereas the state institutions, even though they are obliged by the law, have not done any progress on increasing the quality of life for the disabled people. “In the West every business or institution is obliged to set up facilitating conditions for the people with disabilities. I feel pity that Albania is the country where the human rights are openly violated”, underlines Mejdi.
“We have discriminated them continuously or unconsciously. He or she has not to be humiliated due to the fact that has a physical handicap. Koko is the best example. She, even though being a disabled person of the first grade, has never preferred to have the mercy of the state, vice versa the physician is a success story”, expresses Mejdi. Mejsi also says that he feels pity on the fact that the inhabitants behave differently in Ioannina (Greece) compared to Gjirokastra. “In Ioannina you do not dare to park your vehicle in the spaces designated to be for the disabled people as you’ll find yourself in a big mess, and this not due to the traffic police, but from the reaction of the community. The vehicle will end up in a garbage bin, whereas your driving license will be automatically taken away for one year. And the fine will be very dear”, specifies Mejdi.
Përparim Kore, chief of the public services in Gjirokastra municipality admits the lack of logistic infrastructure for the people with disabilities, but he expresses that this process has been conditioned by the lack of funds. “The infrastructural facilities for the disabled people are almost inexistent in the Gjirokastra town. There have been built three parking places for them and personally I have witnessed that the community does not respect the yellow signs, and this perhaps due to our fault as well”, says Kore. Kore thinks that it is now the proper time to improve some of the things, whereas the penalties for the violators have to be harsh. “We do not have the right to limit the life of any of the disabled people, only because he or she is affected by a muscles disease. I am fully aware that a disabled person finds it difficult to get any document from the local government, as the municipality has not invested on facilitating their transport”, says Kore.
Spiro Ksera, Minister of Social Affairs
Spiro Ksera, minister of Labour, Social Services and Equal Opportunities, says that the institution he leads, has complied several obligations towards the people with disabilities, thanks to the integration of Albania to EU. “After the signing of the UN Convention of the Rights for the People with Disabilities from the Albanian government, the work for its implementation has started by planning and compiling a frame law for the Disabled People, which will bring the solution of many of their problems. It is the first time that all the categories of the people with disabilities, their rights, but also the obligations of the respective institutions will be included in a law which will be in accordance with the EU legislation and UN Convention”, declares Ksera.
According to him, the 2013 budget for the people with disabilities aims to cover all the needs for the blind people, tetraplegics, people with mental and physical disabilities and the disabled from the labour. “This year, the fund for the treatment of the people with disabilities is 12.4 billion leke, two times more compared to 2005, time when the payments for the disabled people were covered with only 6.1 billion leke”, underlines Ksera. The Government, continues Ksera, has continuously contributed for the disabled people to suit themselves in the labor market, or to have some financial facilities. “Every state or local institution that has a number of at least 25 employers has the legal obligation to employ one person with disabilities. In fact, the local government does not respect this law, whereas the public institutions do respect it in general”, specifies Ksera.
The study carried out by Caritas Albania on the situation and needs of the people with disabilities in three towns of Albania, indicates that even
Disabled person in Gjirokastra
though there have been reached some achievements on improving and approaching the Albanian legislation with the international rules, and there has also been compiled a contemporary frame of policies in this field, the effect on their implementation has not yet reached to the people with the disabilities and their families as well. “More than half of the families of the people with the disabilities (55, 5% live under extreme poverty and cannot meet their basic needs”, it is stated in the study. This same source highlights that a considerable number of the people with disabilities (48%) are dependable from their family members on carrying out their personal needs, starting from the most indispensable ones.
The communities where they live are totally inappropriate, as they do not allow them to be included in the normal flow of life; one forth of them have never attended school during their whole life, 89,5% of them and 73,3% of their mothers do not find any employment opportunity”, underlines the study. The services offered to them, continues the study, have been almost inexistent, referring the basic services such as physiotherapy, suitable transport for them, equipments, personal assistance, health care near to their families or any opportunity given to attend any Day Care Center for few hours. The report propounds the most emergent needs that need solutions and offers possible recommendations in supporting these solutions.
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